"Hate the sin, but love the sinner."
"Give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime."
"Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They came through you but not from you and though they are with you yet they belong not to you. "
The following statement encapsulates my personal philosophy of classroom management:
Lickona (1991), a leading authority on character education, states, "[D]own through history, and in countries all over the world, education has two main goals: to help young people become smart and to help them be good" (p. 6). Certainly, teaching content is the number-one reason for schools, but their role in character education makes for a close number-two reason. My goal is not only to foster lifelong learning in my students but to arm them with skills and lessons that will help them to go forth into the world with a strong sense of self-respect, a strong moral underpinning, and a well-honed set of personal values that will assure that not only they are seen as people of good character but that they see themselves the same way. Discipline is an integral component of this goal. Not the traditionalist
"discipline" of punishments and rewards, that are adult-centered and only serve to stop adult-decided misconduct for the moment and only while the adult is around, but the true discipline that provides "a secure, safe, nurturing environment" (Hardin, 2008, p. 183) which empowers students by allowing them to take control of their own conduct rather than having that control imposed externally. Today's empowered students are tomorrow's productive and happy citizens of the world.
The following annotated bulleted items explain in more detail my personal philosophy of classroom management:
- I will involve the students in all aspects of the classroom, from instruction to discipline.
- The first several days of the school year, the students and I will brainstorm rules that we want to guide our community.
- I will mediate the discussion until we reach a concise set of rules and guidelines about which we can all be excited.
- Rules should be simple, clearly-stated, and related to life's expectations, which fall into four categories:
- Show up on time.
- Be prepared.
- Do assignments.
- Respect your own and others' life space (Hardin, 2008, p. 187).
- I will create two versions of the rules:
- A poster that will be on a conspicuous spot on the wall
- A copy per student printed on parchment paper, with lines for me, the student, and one of the student's peers in the class to sign as a witness
- I will design my lesson plans in such a way that they differentiate instruction, so that each student can self-direct his learning according to his unique amalgam of learning style, learning capability, multiple intelligences, and multiple literacies.
- Such aspects of learning as groupings and pace will be for the most part student-directed.
- I will work with, rather than do to my students--such modeling of effective problem-solving will set them up for a lifetime of facility at this important life skill.
- The classroom is a "fail-safe" (Taylor, 2007, p. 4) environment where my students have "equal access to rigor". Taylor admonishes teachers to think beyond the traditional conceptions of physical safety to "safety to learn". She (2007) continues, "To achieve such safety, each student must be met where he or she is in the learning continuum and provided the appropriate support, processes, and instructional resources to grow" (p. 4).
- The classroom is a "print-rich" (Taylor, 2007, p. 13), linguistically-saturated environment replete with a classroom library, a student-owned Word Wall, a listening station, displays of student work, and a bank of computers permanently connected to the Internet. The desks sit so that they can be re-arranged at a moment's notice, for work in pairs, in small groups, the class divided in half, or so that the class can come together as a whole.
- Inner Discipline
- Barbara Coloroso's classroom-management model that stresses that "students must be taught how to think, not what to think" (Hardin, 2008, p. 183).
- In lieu of punishments and rewards, Coloroso stresses that "real-world consequences" play themselves out in children's lives in response to their conduct. To accomplish this, Coloroso uses RSVP to assure that actions and consequences match (R = Is the consequence reasonable? i.e., Does it fit the crime?; S = Is the consequence simple? i.e., Is it so complicated or does it involve so many other people that it becomes more of a bother than what it teaches; V = Is the consequence valuable as a learning tool? i.e., the goal is always to teach that people must be responsible for their behaviors; and P = Is the consequence practical? i.e., Does the consequence act counter to the goal fo the class and of learning?). RSVP will be a guiding principle of my working with students when their behavior runs counter to the conduct agreed upon by the community of learners.
- Coloroso is much less interested in punishment or assigning blame than in problem-solving. She proposes (1994) the following six steps to teach problem-solving
- Identify and define the problem.
- List possible solutions.
- Evaluate the options.
- Choose one option.
- Make a plan.
- Re-evaluate the problem and the student.
- Coloroso's six-step plan (which will be oft-employed out of my teacher toolkit) meshes with what she calls Reconciliatory Justice (Restitution, Resolution, and Reconciliation). Reconciliatory Justice, along with its important adjunct Apology of Action (a tangible making of amends, rather than an empty verbal apology), will be important aspects of my disciplinary repertoire.
- community of learners
- "engaging curriculum and caring community"--the hallmarks of Kohn's (2006) "Building Community" model
- I will employ a great deal of cooperative learning in the classroom, which will foster camaraderie, team-building, and trust and will help the students to hone their social skills.
- Class meetings will be a regular occurrence, providing a forum for airing grievances, exchanging ideas, and proposing ways to make the curriculum, the instruction, and the classroom environment better. Class meetings help teach students that they are valued and that their voices will be heard.
- Class meetings won't occur just to occur. Coloroso (1994) sites three basic requirement for them:
- The problem must be important and relevant to the entire class.
- The teacher must be willing to provide nonjudgemental leadership.
- The meeting must be handled in such a way that all feel willing to share, and students feel it is safe to express their feelings.
- I will greet students at the door (I won't appear interested; I will be interested in their lives as students and as people).
- I will provide ample opportunties for discussion and debate (in French, of course!).
- I will participate in volunteer and service opportunities in my community (actions speak louder than words).
- Students will have various jobs in the classroom, thus engendering a sense of responsibility and accountability.
- Our classroom will have rituals and traditions, the cornerstone of any community.
- Sharing talents will be an important part of our classroom. I want the students to know that they are not in this project of learning and growing alone and that they don't need to know everything, that they can call upon the strengths of their peers and have their strengths called upon in turn.
- In the spirit of community, I will reach out to parents via frequent e-mails and periodic phone calls, communications designed to convey their children's progress, successes, and areas of concern.
Coloroso, B. (1994). Kids are worth it!: Giving your child the gift of inner discipline. New York: William Morrow.
Hardin, C.J. (2008). Effective classroom management: Models and strategies for today's classrooms. (2nd ed). Upper Saddle River, NU: Pearson.
Kohn, A. (2006). Beyond discipline: From compliance to community. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Lickona, T. (1991). Educating for character: How our schools can teach for respect and responsibility. New York: Bantam Books.
Taylor, R.T. (2007). Improving reading, writing, and content learning for students in grades 4-12. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.